Surprise! Last month I told you that a had a fun surprise for you this month, and here it is – my wife and I are expecting our first child! We decided that we had too much disposable income and free time, and anyway I’ve been sleeping far too well lately. There was this one day, about two weeks ago, when we didn’t get out of bed until 8am or so, and that kind of easy comfort simply has to stop. So sometime this February we’re going to trade all that in for constant fatigue and an endless, ever-growing mountain of poop. We’re so excited!
So far the entire thing has been a completely surreal experience. It’s actually difficult to figure out what to write here, since I’m fairly certain that every parent will already know what I’m thinking while every non-parent will think what I’m about to say is halfway ridiculous. I’ve always prided myself on having more than my fair share of self-control, but lately I find my thoughts wandering away from me in directions I hadn’t planned and sometimes have trouble getting back from. I can only assume that actual parenthood only amplifies those feelings, so I think there’s a good chance my head will explode sometime in the near future. Except nobody else’s heads seem to be exploding, so it must be manageable. Right?
Anyway, I spend a lot of time making comparisons between how we live in our personal lives and how we should behave in our professional lives, and now I’m about to embark on a journey that will put that philosophy to the test like nothing else I’ve ever done. Time to put my money where my mouth is. Let’s see if any of what I’m feeling right now rings a bell with any of you:
We Fool Ourselves When We Pretend That Life Can be Controlled
When we went for our 8-week ultrasound, we were told that babies grow at virtually uniform rates until about the 10th or 11th week, which means that it’s fairly easy to predict due dates based on the size. In our case, the ‘crown to rump’ length was 1 centimeter, and we were told that we were officially 7 weeks and 1 day pregnant, and that our due date was therefore February 16. Which all sounded very scientifically and official – until they changed the due date on us at the 20-week ultrasound. And such is life. Doctors assure us that they know what’s going on while simultaneously telling us to get a second opinion, and we confidently predict what will happen in the next three months at work only to sometimes get thrown a wicked curveball. I think most of our stress comes from trying to control things we can’t control – which is almost everything. I hope I’m able to recognize what I can and can’t control once our child is born, as I believe it will be the key to my future sanity. (The new due date is February 9, by the way. Or maybe January. Or 2024. Who knows?)
No One But Hermits Do Anything Alone
Pregnancy is probably the best example of how things aren’t always even; after all, women do all of the heavy lifting for nine months. Many of them take a fierce pride in that fact (as well they should) and occasionally joke that if men were responsible for bringing a baby to term, there’d be no more human race. I won’t argue with any of that. But I will say that during the first trimester, I took care of basically everything around the house because my wife was too exhausted after work to do anything more than sit on the couch. And because I travel for work, she travels for work, and we don’t live near family, raising a child is going to require a healthy amount of coordination and mutual participation between the two of us. Even single parents have friends, family, social services, church groups, and others to help them survive. I have some non-parents friends who complain when I say “we are pregnant” instead of “she is pregnant,” but it really is a team effort. As is everything else we do, both at home and at work. Even sole proprietors have customers and contractors to help them grow and move forward – because if they don’t, then they don’t really have a business.
Trying to Anticipate Changes Is Mostly Wasted Effort
I was intentional earlier when I said that this whole experience has been surreal. It feels like I’m in a really long movie, that it’s all happening to someone else. I am still unable to comprehend what it is going to mean to become a father, and I worry occasionally that I’m not going to love my child the way I’m supposed to. I’ve said as much to other parents, and they have universally told me that they experience the same feelings before their own children were born. In some cases, they didn’t fully attach to their babies until a few weeks after the birth. But they have also universally told me that the love will come, and that I’ll know what to do and how to act. So often we worry about how we’ll handle whatever massive (or minor) change is on the horizon, and the truth is almost always the same. We handle those things just fine, because that’s what we’ve been doing our entire lives. This one might be a lot more life-changing than some others, but it can’t be beyond my ability to handle.
So there you go. That’s some of the neurosis going on in my “soon-to-be-a-dad-ARE-YOU-KIDDING-ME?!?!?!” brain. I’ll take any advice you have to offer, although I think I’m pretty well set. I know that babies are supposed to be folded into a burrito when they go to sleep, and that it’s generally a bad idea to put them on a hot stove. What else is there to know?